I’ve been a professional musician for 12 years now and, being a black lesbian from Brasil, I had (and still have) to face many absurd situations of discrimination and abuse. Although my experience in the dance music scene is more recent, the worst cases happened to me last year, when I moved to Europe. As a raver who loves to dance on the first row with my wife, there wasn’t only one time we went out to dance that we didn’t have to deal with people touching our bodies, or men asking “is there room for one more?”. It became so annoying that even before the pandemic we stopped going to clubs.
Also, as an artist, I was a resident DJ at a very touristic beach club/restaurant in Portugal for the summer and every weekend I had to deal with men catcalling me, touching me without permission, asking for my number after the show and trying to smell my hair while I wasn’t looking. One even grabbed me by the waist and when I yelled at him he laughed and joked it out, saying he couldn’t understand what I was saying. Also, the owner of the club (who was always there) would never talk directly to me, but at some point the situation was making me so uncomfortable that I had to talk to him, to which he responded that if I wasn’t satisfied with the “opportunity” he was giving me, the best he could do was offer me a job as a waitress. Being a black lesbian Brazilian immigrant in Portugal puts me in a state of vulnerability I’ve never experienced before (mostly because either I’m silenced or called a liar, both violently) and I needed a job, so I accepted it. The harassment and the conditions of work got even worse to a point when I just gave up and quit. The owner of the club got really mad and threatened me, saying I shouldn’t have a “bad fame” in his country. I haven’t performed as a DJ since then.
It unsettles me very deeply that the music industry as a whole has not changed much over the decades for people like me and so many others, but I also still believe that reaching out and making connections and networks of care is the way to make the changes we so desperately need.